I hate to sound like everyone else, but television is boring. Soporific put-me-to-sleep dull. There used to be a few shows each night we followed, but so many have been taken off the air or deteriorated to unwatchability there remain but a few. Every year, we start the fall season hopeful there will be something worth watching. Perhaps a couple of interesting series, maybe a comedy. If we are lucky, the powers-that-be won’t have retired the few shows we watch that have survived several seasons.
Killing Harry’s Law for the sin of appealing to the wrong demographic (namely us) was a blow to the heart. We have since realized that killing that show was part of NBC’s master plan to destroy the network. They are doing a splendid job. For the first time, NBC has come in fifth in the ratings after Spanish-language Univision. I think the only NBC shows we still watch are Leno (which they will probably kill because we enjoy it) and occasionally Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit which we view erratically. It’s more a desperation move when everything is in reruns. It too is probably a rerun, but we haven’t seen it, so it’s new to us.
It’s not impossible to write new material, but it takes an effort. Originality is nearly extinct. I’m shocked when I don’t know what’s going to happen next or who did what. It’s a rare treat to be surprised by a script.
The other night, Garry commented that whatever it was — a new show and no, I do not remember the name — we’d seen it before. Being as this was a premier, you would think they might consider writing an original script for it. You would be wrong.
“We’ve seen everything before,” I said.
“We’re old,” he said.
“We may be old, but that’s not the problem. New shows are identical to the old shows. I think they ARE the old shows. They reuse scripts, just change a couple of names and places. We need to get our heads right. Stop expecting originality and try to appreciate whether or not they do the same old stuff well.”
“It would save us from disappointment.”
“Yup. We need to align our expectations with reality.”
“Yeah. Lower our entertainment requirements. Uh, how much more can we lower them? They’re pretty much at the bottom already.” And so they are.
There are still a few shows we really enjoy. NCIS, long may it reign, we watch both the new shows and reruns. It’s our entertainment fallback position.
We watch White Collar. It wins a prize for being the only cop show that doesn’t only solve murders. The show deals with crimes in which no one got killed! What creative genius thought of that?
Elementary has been pleasantly unpredictable and has, in return, won our loyalty.
Anger Management is actually funny. Laugh-out-loud funny. Wow. A funny comedy! A startling idea I thought the networks had abandoned in favor of reality shows. It has been a long time since a sitcom was anything other than insipid and insulting to what’s left of our so-called intelligence.
Our Friday night fix is Blue Bloods. Tom Selleck alone is worth your time. There are a couple of other shows that occasionally aren’t completely predictable (I can’t think of them off-hand which probably speaks volumes), but for the most part, we know what’s going to happen on any show from the opening scene. The credits are enough to give away the story most of the time. The guest star did it. Why else would he or she be on the show?
It’s not impossible to write original material, but it does require a willingness to make an effort at original thought and a committment from networks to let a show stay on the air long enough to develop an audience. A lot of the shows that have become long-term favorites — like NCIS — took several seasons to find an audience. Had MASH come on the air today, it wouldn’t have lasted a single season. They’d have pulled it for not being an instant hit.
Of the top 20 shows that are series, not specials, we watch four series regularly: NCIS, Blue Bloods, Elementary and Criminal Minds. We watch Person of Interest most of the time and Vegas sometimes. That is six of the top 20. The rest of the “top rated shows” we don’t watch at all. This doesn’t bother the networks because we are not part of the sought-after 18 to 45 demographic. So even when, as happened with Harry’s Law, a show is a hit with our group, it gets taken off the air anyway because we don’t count. If we didn’t watch Leno, I’d have boycotted NBC, but they don’t need our help. They’re self-destructing just fine.
Requiring every show to be a sure thing, to be a hit in fewer than half a dozen shows, kills any hope of creativity. An unwillingness to take chances has so completely taken over the entertainment industry I can only wonder if they will bother to produce new shows a few years from now. They can go to all reruns all the time. It would save a great deal of money and it’s entirely about the bottom line, is it not? Whether or not viewers enjoy shows apparently has little to do with programming.
Not merely are producers boring viewers into a stupor, but networks are making themselves irrelevant. How come any average person can see what’s going on but network executives seem oblivious? It is difficult to fathom.
Ultimately, we will stop trying to make sense of it and seek entertainment elsewhere. We are doing that, for the most part, anyhow. We watch more reruns than new shows. We watch more movies than series. We don’t rely on offerings by any of the networks, though when they give us something to watch, we do give it a whirl. But they aren’t trying to keep our loyalty. They’ve made it clear they don’t care about us, so it’s hard to care about them.
There are many more entertainment choices today than were available even a year or two ago. Even more options will be available soon. If ever an industry seemed hell-bent on suicide, network television is it.